GMA  LAUNCHES  TERROR  LAW  TODAY  AMID  CONTROVERSIES

MANILA
, JULY 20, 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo will formally launch the anti-terrorism law in ceremonies at Malacañang today.

Known as the Human Security Act of 2007, the law took effect last July 15.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed yesterday reservations over the law, which it considered “open to abuse.”

CHR Commissioner Wilhelm Soriano said they would make sure that human rights are respected and the rule of law observed when the Human Security Act is enforced.

“We have actually recommended during the deliberations in Congress (on the anti-terror bill)... that there is no need for an additional law to combat terrorism because we believe that the laws that we already have are enough to address terrorism,” he said.

“But since the Human Security (Bill) is now a law... what we can do now is to monitor its implementation, which should be in harmony with the rule of law... it should respect and promote the rights of every person.”

Soriano said the anti-terror law should promote human rights and ensure the people’s safety before the protection of national security.

“By reasons of protecting national security, they can suspend all rights, except the right to life... they can derogate the rights,” he said.

“And that is the danger of the Human Security Act.”

Soriano said the Human Security Act empowers authorities to suspend practically all individual rights for the sake of protecting national security.

“As a start, the CHR and the UP Law Center will hold a forum on the anti-terror law today with the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame,” he said.

Soriano said it is important for them to brief authorities, particularly in the absence of implementing rules and regulations, on the limits of their duties under the anti-terror law.

“As we have experienced in the past, certain protocols or procedures have been breached,” he said.

“So it is important to brief implementers about the law to be able to let them know and remind them that their authority has parameters.”

Meanwhile, the government is confident that the Human Security Act will pass challenges on its legality before the Supreme Court.

In its first meeting at Malacañang the other day, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), the body tasked to implement the law, said the three cases filed before the tribunal share a common argument against the definition of terrorism.

Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, a member of the ATC, said the Council is ready to give its comment on the issue of the definition of terrorism before the SC.

There are already several definitions of terrorism available in other countries that also have their own version of the anti-terrorism law, she added.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said that the court would probably even have to go back to the debates in Congress to find out the intended definition of terrorism under the Human Security Act.

“Remember that this bill did not just pass through one reading, it went through a long process,” he said. “This really went through a rigid process before it was passed.

“There are three petitions for certiorari which are addressed against the wrong respondents because it’s not the Anti-Terror Council that drafted the law but Congress, and you cannot certiorari Congress here.

“At any rate there are so many cases now pending before the Supreme Court but not one so far has been issued any restraining order.”

The three petitions were filed by Bayan Muna, Southern Hemisphere Engagement Network Inc. and Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Meanwhile, at 7:30 this morning, a memorial service will be held at the Loyola Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque at the common grave of the victims of the SuperFerry fire in 2004.

The survivors of the incident as well as the relatives of victims of other terrorist incidents are expected to attend the memorial service.

Philippine Information Agency executive director Conrado Limcaoco said members of the diplomatic corps, members of the Cabinet, as well as senators and congressmen instrumental in having the law passed would be in attendance.

“So while the law did come to effect on the 15th of July, we are trying to celebrate its passing and its implementation and the theme is Remembering the Victims, Honoring the Heroes, Implementing the Republic Act,” he said.

Truck driver Angelo dela Cruz, who was snatched n Iraq ,and Angelito Nayan who was kidnapped in Afghanistan will also be present, he added.

Limcaoco said American missionary Gracia Burnham, who along with her husband Martin was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, was also invited to the ceremony.

However, Burnham would not be able to attend, and is expected to send a message of support for the Human Security Act, he added.

– Marvin Sy, Katherine Adraneda


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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